Another Monday means another installment of MilSpouse Mondays, a weekly series dedicated to tackling some of the biggest challenges facing today’s military spouses. Join us each Monday to meet a new MilSpouse and learn about how they are making a difference for their communities and other military families around the world.
This week, we talk to Lizann Lightfoot, an author, blogger, and entrepreneur with a passion for helping other military spouses navigate their unique lifestyle. Lizann is the founder of Seasoned Spouse, a site dedicated to providing a space for military spouses to come together and share their experiences.
Read our interview with Lizann below:
Lizann, can you provide a brief overview your experience as a military spouse?
Sure, I’ve been a Marine Corps spouse for 11 years now, but I’ve been with my husband since before his military career began, 17 years ago. During that time, he has done seven deployments and we have completed five PCS moves (including one overseas assignment). We also have four children.
In 2016, you founded your blog Seasoned Spouse to create a place that connects military spouses and helps them navigate through some of the most daunting military challenges like deployments, PCSing, and raising kids alone. What inspired you to create Seasoned Spouse and how has it evolved since its inception?
I started my blog at our fourth duty station, after returning from an overseas assignment. At that time, my husband was doing another set of back-to-back deployments, and I knew that I wanted to have meaningful work I could do while staying at home with our young children. After connecting with newer, younger spouses at our duty station, I quickly realized that the strength and resiliency I had developed overseas was something I should not take for granted.
While I had grown used to the deployments and moves, I saw that many military families have never dealt with them and find a new experience to be intimidating or overwhelming. The government doesn’t provide a lot of support or guidance for spouses, especially during non-combat deployments. We are left to figure many things out on our own.
I created the Seasoned Spouse page to be a place where spouses could ask questions and get answers from someone who has been through that challenge before. I also wanted to provide an encouraging environment to help new girlfriends/boyfriends, fiancées, and spouses through a first deployment.
Deployments are undoubtedly one of the most stressful aspects of life with the military. You even created a Deployment Masterclass to help other military girlfriends, fiancés, and spouses make it through their significant others’ deployments overseas. How have your deployment experiences changed over time?
My husband’s first five deployments were all combat tours to Iraq or Afghanistan. During the first three, I was a girlfriend with no connection to the military community. It was extremely challenging handling such new and stressful situations when no one around me could truly sympathize or understand what we were going through.
During his Afghanistan deployments, we were married and already had our first children. I was home with a toddler and a baby, and gave birth alone during one of those deployments–in a hurricane, no less! Those years were exhausting, but I got through with support from military spouse friends and the local community. I realized the importance of learning about resources and programs that support military families. There are so many out there! But most are not well advertised and very under-utilized.
Each time he went through a deployment, I would find the support systems and programs that made it work for us. But as soon as he went to a new duty station, I had to start all over again researching programs and making local connections. His more recent deployments have been non-combat, which is certainly less stressful, but still brings unique communication challenges. I have seen government programs de-funded and canceled in recent years, so some supportive organizations no longer exist. I find that military families increasingly rely on other military families to answer their questions and find support.
That’s why the Deployment Masterclass is a collection of experience, encouragement, and hands-on checklists from various military spouse of all branches, so the information will be relevant, up-to-date, and helpful for those who are facing a deployment this year. It includes a written Deployment Guide, video trainings from a dozen experienced military spouses, and a helpful FB group for real-time support.
Aside from creating Seasoned Spouse, you’ve also published a book, contributed countless articles to various military sites, and continue to create valuable resources for military spouses around the world. How has being an entrepreneur impacted your experience as a military spouse?
Learning that I could get paid to use my writing talents has opened a lot of doors for me. Education was always a priority for both my husband and I. He supported me when I chose to pursue my Master’s degree online, even though I was already taking care of our babies at home. I originally planned to use my MBA in a traditional career, but when he was sent overseas, there were no local jobs available to me. So, I started writing. I wrote my “Welcome to Rota” book to help military families moving to Naval Station Rota, Spain.
I’m proud to say it has become the go-to guidebook for that duty station! When we returned to the States, freelance writing for military websites allowed me to work from home and offset the high cost of living in Southern California.
Originally, I just wanted to make extra money to pay for our kids to do sports and activities. But writing has done so much more than that. It has connected me to incredible military spouses all around the world. It has helped me study and appreciate the unique lifestyle of military families. And I have even been able to contribute to small improvements in military life by writing articles that shed light on problems and lead people to solutions. It has been a rewarding way to express myself so I’m not living in the shadow of my husband’s career. Also, it’s exciting to know that I will have jobs open to me when he retires.
As a ‘seasoned spouse’ with years of experience and multiple deployments under your belt, what advice do you have for new spouses getting their first taste of life with the military?
Oh, so much! That’s what all my blog posts are for, haha! But seriously, I often compare military life to a roller coaster. There are a lot of changes, ups and downs, twists and turns. All the uncertainty can be frustrating and feel unfair. But the good news is that nothing is ever permanent.
If you don’t like your duty station, you won’t be there forever! If you are missing your spouse while they are training, know that it is just a rough season. If there are some bad apple spouses in your unit, they will move eventually. The happiest military spouses learn to laugh at the crazy challenges that come our way and lean on the community for support.
Take the time to learn about your new duty station, local resources, and activities. Invest in yourself by building friendships and participating in activities—even if they are online. Building up your community is time well-spent that will reward you during your times of greatest trials.
We at Meditec want to thank Lizann for taking part in MilSpouse Mondays. You can stay up to date with Lizann and Seasoned Spouse on Twitter, Facebook, and her website. Also, be sure to sign to check back next week for another installment of MilSpouse Mondays, presented by Meditec.
If you missed last week’s installment with Corie Weathers, a Military Spouse of the Year recipient, you can read the interview here.
Meditec is a career training site specifically designed to help America’s military spouses succeed professionally, regardless of where life takes them. Our accredited, affordable, MyCAA-approved courses are centered around career opportunities that allow individuals to work from home or on the road. Not only that, but we also guide military spouses throughout the MyCAA process, helping them earn scholarships to put towards career advancement programs.